Thursday, May 19, 2011

Why I’m a Video StoryTellers!™ Associate

by Jim Nicholson

When Earl invited me to write a brief article for his blog about Video StoryTellers!™ (VST) I immediately wondered if it would be possible. I know I can type a few lines but that would be the challenge. He made it perfectly clear the article had to be objective, unbiased, truthful, and for my sins it was to be written using proper grammar.

All kidding aside, I knew I would have a hard time with the “unbiased” condition. Having been involved with Earl on the ground floor of VST makes it very hard to be unbiased but I’ll try my best.

I first discussed VST with Earl some time ago. As a newbie at that time in the video profession I found myself turning to Earl often to learn and gain lots from his years of experience both as a business person and also in the field of video production. We tend to talk too much on the phone but for me that’s OK because I feel I always come away with more from the conversation anyway.

We happened to be speaking about one of my usual issues with video and after I was done beating myself over the head for missing the usual easy solution that Earl was always willing to provide me with, we got off on a side conversation, as we do many times. It was about VST and Earl was in a groove for sure. As we talked I started to envision possibilities for my company if I were to give VST a whirl, and like we often do, we fed each other many scenarios about what a VST business could do for someone like me. I was trying to build a video business in a down market and it looked to me like VST would fit right into a need I had to get something rolling. I agreed to give it a whirl.

I may be a little different from others looking at VST because I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed. I will let my love of video lead me, and although I know I need to earn with my business, when something comes along like VST that I feel strongly about I tend to let my love for video take over. That being said, I jumped in with all three feet. From the beginning I knew I was going to take VST through a wide range of possibilities, utilizing a number of different marketing formats. I tend to always see the big picture and find myself focusing in on specifics later. VST was no different and I compiled a long list of situations where I could present it to the public.

Nursing homes were the first because I think that was Earl’s first thoughts and I agreed. Having been around nursing homes since my wife works at a very large one, it was very clear to me that the residents love to talk and tell stories. I can remember one Halloween, we took our two-year-old grandson to the nursing home for trick or treat. Every year they go crazy for the local kids with dressing up and handing out candy. The whole complex is into it. This one is roughly 100-plus acres so that is loads of candy, but it relates to a ton of residents too.

As we made our way through the halls and candy stations that were set up where the residents were sitting in full costumes with boxes of candy, handing it out, it became clear to me these guys love to tell stories. It was impossible to stop for candy and not have to stand and listen to several stories the residents would share from tales of their trick and treating as kids, to little tales of what happened that day as “Joe was trying to get his mask on and scared his cat with it.” These were all their important personal stories, and believe me we were not leaving that area until we listened and acknowledged we understood that.

What’s my story?
My story is that VST has some teeth in it. The older population is a great place to start. I did run into a few hurdles trying to get past those dreaded gate keepers when I tried to set up a VST session in this very same nursing home. I thought I was a shoe in since my wife worked there and was a trusted employee for 11 years. This is when I found out that people responsible for these residents are very cautious because so many scammers have robbed this population. It becomes part of the social director’s job to protect the residents.

At first I was a little bummed, thinking I was looked upon as a possible scammer, but if you think about it they really do need to protect these folks. My next move was to find a way in, a work-around for the gate keepers. It became a challenge for me to accomplish this. I know Earl has tips for this but I can share how I did it. I used a “side door” approach.

This nursing home has many separate clubs for the residents. I found one that I was familiar with, a train club. They have weekly meetings and a public open house once a month. I chose to attend and I sought out the head honcho and just being me I started talking about the trains. I wonder if you can guess what happened next. In case not, this guy started telling me one story after another. If I’d had my camera I could have shot those stories and completed a session right then and there. We did talk about VST and when I left I had the contact number for the president, and all it took was a call to get the word to them.

I tend to run into things, and if I’m alert (to the possibilities) I grab onto them and run with them. This is what happened when I was shooting a demo for my website. I have a friend in his 70s who just happened to work at Three Mile Island atomic power plant in Pennsylvania, back during the meltdown scare. He was actually on shift when it happened. I’d heard many stories from him in the past about it, so when I needed a demo I naturally asked him. He jumped at the chance to tell his story and I shot my demo.

When I had it all ready and on DVD, of course I gave him a copy. He watched it with his wife that night and the next morning my phone was ringing. Ron was so excited. He could not believe he was on a DVD. You might say he was star struck. He wanted to know if I could make him a number of copies for his family. I told him I would have to charge him for the copies and he was totally OK with that. Here’s where I ran into another idea for VST.

I was joking with him because he was so excited. I said Ron, now that you’re a star you need to sell these videos. He came right back and said, “I know. I wanted to ask you about that.” Here is another opportunity for VST stories. If you run into one that is out of the ordinary, and you will, it can be sold and your business can make a tidy little profit. You can offer marketing help in the form of a marketing package where you charge a fee for getting the production out onto the Web and either you can package deal a shopping cart or help them do it if they’re computer savvy. This is not confined to older people. This can work for anyone. Ron has sold hundreds of copies, all that I duplicated for him. What started as a demo turned into a tidy sum for my business.

Since I started with VST I tend to listen for stories and I’ve not had any trouble finding these special ones. I just found one last week while talking to a painting contractor appraiser. He was writing my estimate and in general chitchat he started telling me of his home in Brazil, and proceeded to tell me a story of how eight of 10 people at some point in their lives there are robbed by drug or other gangs. He told me of the time he was robbed in his house with his wife and kids there. To skip right to the end, one of the robbers seemed very bothered by the deed, he told me. The homeowner said to him if he did not hurt his family God would forgive him.

Later on, roughly a year later, he met this same person in a church. After talking to him, he learned right after the man had robbed him he’d remembered the statement about being forgiven. He sought out a church and now was a beneficial member helping other gang bangers to give up crime and seek the church. The whole story was very moving. This is a true VST story. One that can easily be sold and could be targeted to a church-related market.

The biggest thing you need to come to grips with is you MUST LISTEN to people when you talk to them. I think so often we’re in such a hurry that we converse with people to be polite but we do not really listen to them. If you listen, VST will gleam with possibilities and that equates to profits for your business. I can fill this blog with ways to make VST work for you. The key word is “work”. You must work it for it to work for you. It is a two-way street and does require commitment. If you’re like me and love to talk, or listen to other people’s stories, VST is just part of who you are. It can be an extension of your personality. If you’re alert (to the possibilities) and if you listen, the rest falls into place.

There are so many possibilities with VST I’ve not touched on. Fairs, libraries, schools and veterans. One of my passions is the fact that so many veterans from WWII, Korea and now Vietnam have so many stories to tell. Their stories are really bits of history and as they pass away their part of that history is lost forever. I have run into many of these while doing other work and I see they are VST stories. There can be a link made to schools and education too.

I had an editing job before VST was known to me. I had a client that had made a video of a friend who was the owner of the business he worked at. This fellow was a WWII veteran and he was retiring so the office staff decided they needed to get his story on videotape and turn it into a nice video for him. I was hired to produce it. I guess you can say this was a VST job before I started with VST. I edited and cleaned up the footage the best I could since I did not shoot it, and produced a DVD.

While the project was at the duplicators, I got a call and was asked if Charlie, the WWII veteran, would mind if his DVD was used by a local school for history class. The teacher who was a friend of the fellow who duplicated my order at the time asked if she could use the DVD in her history class. I duplicate my own DVDs now, but you can see where this was headed. Not only is VST a story for the owner but can be marketed to any organization that deals with history. I guess you can tell I like this side of VST.

I promised Earl I would be brief but I find it hard to be brief when there are so many possibilities with VST. I have not even scratched the surface yet and I think it would be a long time before I could exhaust every way I can make VST work for me. Darn, that nasty word again: “Work!”

Editor’s note: Jim Nicholson is the owner and operator of Nicholson Video Productions, and is an independent professional video services provider operating throughout the New England region, as well as the southern states, including Florida. He is an original member of the Video StoryTellers!™ associates group.

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