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Three Reasons Why I Shared the Hilarious Chewbacca Laughing Mask Video

Chewbacca Mask Video Screenshot

If you’re anything like me, you laughed out loud with the delightful woman whose infectious laughter over a laughing Chewbacca mask broke records for Facebook Live Video views. If you haven’t seen it, here’s a link to the video on her Facebook page.

I decided to bump the post I’d planned to write this week because I think this viral phenomenon creates a great framework for talking about a few content marketing truths. Here are three reasons why I loved and shared this video:

1. She’s Real

Candace Payne didn’t put on airs, didn’t set up the perfect backdrop, and didn’t even prepare her script. She simply turned on the camera and acted like herself.

And it wasn’t manufactured authenticity, either. She was actually authentic. As I watched the video, I kept thinking to myself, She’s My People.

At the end of the day, this is what we all love. None of us likes to be manipulated into wanting something. As you consider your content marketing strategy, be careful to avoid a disingenuous tone.

2. She’s the Hero

Candace loves her Chewbacca mask. It makes her so happy that she can’t stop laughing! The Star Wars brand and Kohl’s (where she bought it) made her feel like a million bucks, and now I want one, too!

I know this is a simple B2C product example, but there’s still an important lesson we can draw from it, whether we’re targeting consumers or businesses:

When the story you tell about your brand builds on your customer as the hero, it’s infectious, and it changes the world around them.

That’s not something people quickly forget, and it’s much more likely that they’ll brag about your brand as a result.

Which brings me to my final point…

3. She’s a Fan

Candace was so excited about her Chewbacca mask that she couldn’t even wait to get home! She sat right there in her car, presumably in the Kohl’s parking lot, and shared her excitement with the world.

Like I said previously, her presence in the video made me feel like She’s My People.

Fans are made when you understand who your customer is and what makes them feel like they’re part of a bigger story. Candace is a Star Wars fan who shops at Kohl’s, and the laughing Chewbacca mask provided a memorable experience that she wanted to share with Her People.

Your brand may have many customers, but it’s Your People who become fans.

With one click or post, your fans can share a piece of content with Their People, and that network grows exponentially as it continues to be shared.

So give them something to share!

Content marketing that is real and not about you will find the right people and grow a solid fan base for your brand.

Use It or Lose It! How to Spend Your Marketing Budget Before the Fiscal Year Ends.

FYE - Thumbnail

Hey guess what… it’s nearly summer! Where has the time gone?! As a parent, I’ve been thinking about what the heck to do with my kids once school is out in June. I’m not a huge fan of becoming a cruise director to keep my kids entertained, but I’m definitely researching different activities to give them a bit of structure during the summer months.

For many of you, June also marks the end of your organization’s fiscal year. Do you know the future of your marketing budget?

I bring it up because if you leave money unspent at the end of the year, The Budget Decider might not let you roll it over to the next fiscal year.

Don’t let this happen to you!

Spend those remaining marketing dollars on an animated video that clearly explains what problem you solve for your customers!

We make it easy to get started.

I know you have a ton on your plate right now and can’t even THINK about taking on another project, but I just need ONE HOUR of your time to get started.

One hour! That’s all the time I need to draw the story out of you, and then the rest is up to me.

Don’t have a spare hour? No problem! Let’s brown bag it over a sandwich and a Google Hangout — I promise our time together will be both entertaining and inspiring, as all lunch hours should be (and I don’t mind if you talk with your mouth full).

Get the most bang for your buck.

An animated video is the best way to clearly explain what problem you solve for your customers. In fact:

  • A video on your homepage increases conversion by 20% or more.
  • An email that includes video has a 96% higher click-through rate.
  • 92% of people consuming video on mobile devices share videos with other people.

Tech advancements over the last few years make it seamless for consumers and business leaders alike to use video for research and decision-making on the products and services they’re looking for.

We create the engaging stories and narrative patterns that great products are built around – which makes your story stand out from all the rest.

So if you’re staring down the barrel of your fiscal year end, get started on a video now before your budget dollars are gone!

—— footnote ——
50 Must Know Stats About Video Marketing in 2016, Insivia.com, January 2016.

The Rejects

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I love character design.  It’s the most fun part of the job next to crafting the action script.  It’s a great challenge to find the right design that the story (and client) wants, while keeping it fun and interesting for the audience.  Along the way a lot of iterations get tweaked, changed, dabbled with, or down right thrown out the digital door.  Here’s a little love to my “Rejects”.  Maybe they’ll find a home in another story?  :^)

-AI

R5

R1

R3R6

R2

The Ideal Work Week: A Creative Entrepreneur’s Guide to Conquering the World (while wearing pajamas)

I work from home and wake up most mornings with great optimism: The day is fresh! New! I’m going to be amazing! I’ll get so much done!

Then I look my calendar: It’s wide open! No appointments! This is great! I’ll get so much done today!

But that’s where it starts to break down.

As I dive into the day, I find that my to-do list is endless, my email is blowing up, and the document I opened for writing a post is completely empty… the cursor blinking, mocking me.

What started out as such a promising day with a great attitude and a clear schedule turned into a day stuck in the mud with my wheels spinning unproductively.

With such a blank slate to work with, where did I go wrong?

Don’t let the day overtake you.

As a creative and intuitive person, I tend toward the “do what feels good when the inspiration hits!” end of the productivity spectrum. Unfortunately, my clients and deadlines can’t simply wait around for that inspiration to show up, so I needed to put some rails on my day to keep myself on track.

I did this by creating a template of an ideal work week — or as I prefer to call it, my Best Week Ever! — which is a representation of how I’d spend my time if I had total control over my calendar (i.e. no sick kids, no project delays, and on-demand inspiration).

ideal-week

By creating my Best Week Ever, I take over my day instead of my day overtaking me! Here’s how you can do the same…

Divide your week into Maker versus Manager time.

There are two kinds of people in this world — those who do meetings, and those who hate meetings.

(Notice I didn’t mention anyone who likes meetings.)

Managers tend to schedule their time in 30 minute increments. They go from meeting to meeting, check tasks off their list, make phone calls, and evaluate the work of other people.

Makers tend to schedule themselves several hours at a time. These are the writers, coders, artists, and thinkers who need to dive down deep into a well of concentration, who need to find their groove.

To Makers, a 30 minute meeting means a lengthy commute up from that well of concentration, plus a lengthy commute back into it when the meeting is done. Makers can be quirky — we can’t just turn our focus on and off like Managers do. So when all is said and done, that 30 minute meeting may cost you a full 90 minutes of focused productivity!

When planning your Best Week Ever, block out chunks of time for focus work — like three to four hours. I prefer to do this first thing in the morning before I get distracted by shiny objects like email and Asana tasks. I literally schedule a repeating event titled, FOCUS WORK, and my team knows to schedule around that as much as possible.

On the flip side, shit still needs to get done, so make sure you schedule tasky time into your calendar as well. I have an hour a day where I focus on lead generation tasks, client project tasks, and even mundane things like filing and phone calls. Don’t neglect to schedule these into your calendar, otherwise they’ll take over your day!

Build margins into your schedule.

One thing I struggle with is constantly is feeling like I’m wasting my time. If I can’t check something off my list, was I productive? In some cases, yes!

Staying creative and inspired is an essential part of my job. If I lose my mojo, I can’t deliver the best possible creative work to my clients. Therefore, it’s important that I build goofing off into my schedule — time to read articles, watch videos, or take a walk while listening to a podcast.

These meandering activities aren’t necessarily tasks I can check off a list, but they’re essential to keeping me from burnout, getting into a rut, or running out of ideas. So as you build your Best Week Ever, be sure to include time for rest, re-creation, and exploration!

Be flexible.

If all of this sounds a little too constrained for you, don’t lose heart! I’m here for you! I feel your spontaneousness twitching, and I have great news for you!

By creating your Best Week Ever, all you’ve done is reserved and prioritized chunks of your time to make the day work for you instead of being taken over by the day.

For instance, if the only time a call can be scheduled is during your Maker time, no problem! Your Maker time doesn’t have to disappear, you just move it! It’s like a virtual Jenga game, where you pull a block of time out from the bottom of the pile and move it to the top, and everything stays in balance.

(…until it crashes. Here’s where the Jenga metaphor “falls” short.)

(Did you see what I did there?)

So if you’re constantly frustrated by interruptions, or you freeze at the reality of a wide open schedule, try creating your own Best Week Ever to make the day work for you.

What’s your biggest scheduling challenge? Let us know in the comments!

— footnote—
Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule. Paul Graham, 2009.
How to Better Control Your Time by Designing Your Ideal Week. Michael Hyatt, 2011.

Tools of the Trade: Communication & Organization for Remote Teams

What Now? Exactly! is based in Seattle, but our small team is actually located in Portland, Seattle, and now, Austin, Texas.

I live and work in Austin from my apartment and coffee shops. I have never met my teammates in “real life” (whatever that means!). When people ask me what I do, I get a kick out of saying that I work for a company based in Seattle.

In my career, I’ve had the privilege of being part of multiple remote teams, and I’ve learned a few tips and tricks along the way. While the benefits of working remotely are often cited (Working in your pajamas! Location independence! Hanging out with your cats all day!), there are some distinct disadvantages that come with a lack of face-to-face time with your team.

For successfully managing a remote team, communication and organization are key to ensuring that goals are met, team members are satisfied, and that everyone is on the same page.

Here’s a little peek inside our team’s toolkit here at What Now? Exactly!

Communication

Gmail – Email Platform

To me, Gmail is the only e-mail platform. With archiving, tags, and customizability, Gmail allows you to set up your inbox in a way that works for you. Why use anything else?

I have to say, we don’t actually e-mail much for our internal communications, and I prefer it that way! But, of course, there are certain things you need an email address for.

Slack – Instant Messaging for Team Collaboration

In lieu of long email threads, we use Slack. We have channels for the different departments of the company, like #content-marketing or #production, but also fun channels like #awesomesauce for sharing fun video content or #watercooler for anything else (but especially Game of Thrones discussions).

Slack works perfectly for checking in on the status of a project or task, or asking a question that needs a fairly quick answer.

I also have set up a few Slack integrations with our other tools — for example, any time that one of my tasks in Asana is updated, I get a Slack notification. This cuts down on the number of emails I get in my inbox and keeps me up to date.

Asana – Project Management

Asana is a wonderful tool for keeping everyone in the loop. The beauty of Asana is the adaptability. If a task is getting too cluttered, make it into its own project. Need to call in someone from outside your team? Tag them to get their attention on the task they are needed on without necessarily looping them into the entire project. We also take notes from meetings directly into the pertinent task in Asana to cut down on communication gaps.

Google Hangouts – Face to Face Contact

One of the trickiest parts of working remotely is feeling connected to your team. Google Hangouts are perfect for a weekly or daily check-in call with your team while getting some quality facetime in. I recommend at the minimum, a regular standing call with your team members — and it’s helpful to be open to firing up a Hangout anytime details need to be hashed out.

Organization

Sunrise Calendar – All Your Calendars in One Place

If you have multiple jobs or calendars to keep track of, Sunrise is a must. I use it to keep my personal calendars connected to my work calendars. Like many of the other tools in this list, Sunrise integrates with other tools, so you can add calendars from Facebook, Asana, and multiple Gmail accounts into one view.

We use our calendars to keep track of when everyone is available, so that way, work time is work time and doesn’t leak into personal life too much.

As a bonus, Sunrise is the only tool I’ve found that integrates with Microsoft Outlook calendars.

Buffer – Social Media Scheduling

Buffer is also a remote team, and I feel like their workflow shows in their tool. Buffer makes it easy to schedule and move around social media posts, and allows for multiple users to view who did what.

Google Drive & Dropbox – File Collaboration

You have probably used these tools before, but they’re worth mentioning because they are so useful. Google Drive works best for editing and providing feedback on documents like scripts or blog post drafts, while Dropbox is used for our video and image assets that need a place to live long-term. Having a distinct system for which type of file goes where helps keep our documents organized and easy to find.

With a focus on clear communication and organization, any remote team can thrive. These focuses can help your remote team stay connected, meet goals, and be satisfied with work.

What tools do you use to keep in touch with your team? Let us know in the comments!

Everyone Needs a Red Team

I’m a big Aaron Sorkin fan. You probably remember him from great shows like Sports Night and The West Wing, and as the screenwriter for The Social Network, Moneyball, and Steve Jobs.

And then there was that one time he did a “walk and talk” with Liz Lemon on an episode of 30 Rock (“Wait, did we just walk in a circle?”).

I recently caught up with another of his shows — The Newsroom — starring Jeff Daniels as network news anchor, Will McAvoy.

Throughout the second season we follow the reporting team as they investigate a big story. It entails all the usual drama, conflict, and a twist. As the project shows hints of going sideways, someone suggests to MacKenzie, the senior producer, that she get McAvoy involved.

“No,” she says. “I need him for the Red Team.”

Of course, this is where the comment is left — dangling. This is how Aaron Sorkin writes. He wants me to shout at the tv screen, “WHAT THE HECK IS A RED TEAM?”

So I did a little research, and it turns out that a Red Team refers to a group of people with no prior knowledge of the story who approach it with skepticism and an intent to challenge its assumptions.

Wikipedia defines it as “an independent group that challenges an organization to improve its effectiveness.”

In military training, the Red Team is the opposing force sent in to test a unit’s readiness for battle. In digital security, the Red Team is the hacker hired to test an organization’s security strength.

Red Team Jen

In your business, I’m the Red Team who looks at your story with fresh eyes. I test your assumptions and poke holes in your jargon. I ask hard questions and play the skeptic. I challenge your love for the product to make sure you’re not just going through the motions.

In other words, I don’t just produce a video for you. I make your story bulletproof.

Don’t fall into the trap of writing your own script or producing your video in-house. You might think this saves you money, but without a Red Team to challenge your internal perspective, your story runs the risk of confusing your customers.

Whether you sell a product, provide a service, sell to consumers or businesses, or just have a Great Idea to explain, we work together as storytellers (that’s us!) and content experts (that’s you!) to make your brand stand out against the competition.

Have a project in mind? Get in touch.

So You Have a Great Idea… What Now?

Great Idea What Now

I love what I do. I get to meet great people, learn about great products and ideas, and then I get to help other people fall in love with those products and ideas.

When we take on a project, we assume you also love what you do, and that you’re just as excited about what you’re putting out into the world.

That’s why we’ll be great together.

Whether you sell a product, provide a service, sell to consumers or businesses, or just have a Big Idea to explain, we work together as storytellers (that’s us!) and content experts (that’s you!) to clearly explain what problem you solve for your customers.

But first, you have to tell us about that great idea…

Things I Do When I Should Be Writing

Clutter Cat

  • Eat a snack.
  • Organize MailChimp lists.
  • Write long and thoughtful Facebook comments on posts that are three months old.
  • Go through all our Asana projects and come up with GREAT IDEAS for how other people should get their work done.
  • Eat a snack.
  • Pluck my chin whiskers. Variations on this include: filing my nails, clipping hang nails, and Googling eye shadow tutorials.
  • Declutter my desk.
  • Eat a snack.
  • Mark a bunch of Asana tasks complete to see how many unicorns I get.
  • Write a GREAT post… for my personal blog.
  • Oh look! It’s lunchtime!

Oh, but I’ve TRICKED you! These aren’t distractions, but participants in the mystery of creative inspiration and the writing process.

Jack Donaghy calls it The Shower Principal.

Dennis Palumbo — a Hollywood screenwriter turned psychotherapist — writes about this phenomenon in his book, Writing From the Inside Out, and in this article, In Praise of Goofing Off.

It’s during activities like the ones above that allow our thoughts to “percolate” or “simmer,” as he puts it, which is just as necessary as actually writing. “Think of it this way,” he writes. “You’re not watching the entire first season of Mad Men merely to avoid working. Rather, you’re allowing the part of your brain that creates to labor away unconsciously, filtering and sorting, selecting and discarding.”

I often forget this in the middle of a constipated effort to create something out of nothing. But the moment I throw back my chair in frustration and find something else to do, inspiration comes.

For this reason, I agree wholeheartedly with Palumbo when he says, “The creative process is goddamned mysterious.”

Our Latest Work: Robi & the Flickr Hoodie for We Make Seattle

We Make Seattle - ASSETS Intro v4A

You know how Pixar always shows an animated short right before its feature film?

We just did that! Not for Pixar, though. Sorry, was that misleading?

For the last few months, I participated in an exciting local project called We Make Seattle, which began as a Kickstarter campaign to fund a short film for and about Seattle’s vibrant start-up and maker community.

Many stories about Seattle were collected for the film, but not all of them made it into the final cut. One of those stories came from Robi Ganguly, the CEO and Co-Founder of Apptentive.

Producer Bryan Zug had this to say on the We Make Seattle blog:

Robi told a story about what it was like to wear a hoodie around Seattle that he had gotten from the Flickr team – A story that really captures what makes Seattle such a welcoming place for people who make awesome things.

We were asked to capture his story via animation as a surprise bonus for the backers and friends of We Make Seattle, and it premiered at the event last week just before main film.

More on the event and Robi’s reaction after the video embedded below (or click here to watch on YouTube).

The We Make Seattle team promised Robi a surprise, but he had no idea he was animated until we revealed the video.

As someone who’s been animated for a video before (more on that another day), it’s pretty fun to hear your voice and see a cartoon version of yourself on the big screen.

I think he was into it:

Robi, left, capturing the premier on video.

Actual Robi, left, snapping a shot of Animated Robi at the We Make Seattle world premier.

It’s rare that we get to witness the drama around the release of our projects, so this was a special treat for us. Usually I get excited emails with a few exclamation points, and I consider it a job well done.

But to be in the room when a project is revealed, to feel the reaction from the audience and experience it with a crowd for the first time — that made me a little verklempt!

Many thanks to my very talented co-founder, Andrew Imamura, for creating Illustrated Robi, and to our amazing animator, Aaron Bishop (pictured below, with Robi) for bringing him to life.

"I've been listening to your voice for a long time," said Aaron Bishop, right, upon meeting Actual Robi.

“I’ve been listening to your voice for a long time,” said Aaron Bishop — animator at What Now? Exactly! — right, upon meeting Actual Robi.

You Know You Need a Video…What Now?

These days, anyone with a laptop and access to the right software can make an animated video. You can even make your own video using online DIY apps!

Choosing someone to make your animated video can feel as overwhelming as standing in the toothpaste aisle — which one is right for you?

I’ll give you a hint. What you’re looking for is:

  • A video that works
  • for the right price
  • by someone who gets you.

Creating an effective sales video should be treated as an investment, and like any investment, you want to assess the risk, value, and relationship.

Joining a Virtual Office Hours session is your first step in assessing all three of those variables.

Open Sign v1E

During this live video chat between you, me, and three others just like you, we’ll cover four things:

  • What challenges you face when explaining what you do.
  • How we help you overcome those challenges through clear and engaging video content.
  • Our process, pricing, and how to get started.
  • Any questions you might have.

By the end of our chat, you’ll have a clear understanding of how we can help you, what we charge, and if we’re a good fit for working together (which matters more than you might think).

If you’re considering animated video content to explain your product, service, or Big Idea, join our next virtual office hours and get your questions answered.

Several dates currently available — SIGN UP by completing the form below.