Skip to content

Archive for

Review: The Viral Video Manifesto by Stephen Voltz and Fritz Grobe

viralThis review was first posted on Nov. 22.

The Viral Video Manifesto: Why Everything You Know Is Wrong and How to do What Really Works

By Stephen Voltz and Fritz Grobe

McGraw Hill


I’m an old dog trying to learn a new trick.

For 20 years, I’ve worked in public relations and made a career out of putting words together.

Back in September, my colleague and I decided to try our hand at telling stories by video. We picked up a camera, hit record and started posting weekly episodes to YouTube.

Our videos — which are like the Rick Mercer Report minus the humour and rants — showcase our co-workers and the people we serve.

Unlike a traditional employee newsletter, we know exactly how many people are watching. Each unscripted episode is averaging 600 unique viewers and we’re getting good feedback from our target audience.

If we wanted our videos to go viral and be watched by millions, we’d follow the rules set out by authors Stephen Voltz and Fritz Grobe.

Chances are, you’ve watched their videos. They created their first back in 2006 by dropping 500 Mentos into 100 bottles of Coke. The Extreme Diet Coke and Mentos Experiments video has been watched more than 100 million times.

“Viral video is the 21st century sideshow,” say Voltz and Grobe, who both worked in theatrical circus. “It’s immediate and unpolished, and it embraces the bold, daring and unabashedly strange.”

So if you want to create a video watched by millions, adhere to these four rules:

• Be true. Create a direct, personal connection with your audience. Use real people, one camera and no edits. “Viral video is about a raw, unfiltered experience, so don’t dress it up.”

• Don’t waste our time. Immediately get down to business, show nothing but “money shots” and don’t overstay your welcome. “So whether your video will be five seconds long, five minutes long or longer, be ruthless. Make sure there isn’t a second more than is absolutely necessary.”

• Be unforgettable. Show us something we haven’t seen before. Stand out from the crowd. Capture a unique moment. “Show us something new and exciting — that’s the strongest tactic for going viral.”

• And ultimately, it’s all about humanity. “You want to find a place where the audience can see themselves, their emotions or their experiences reflected on the screen. That human element will make your video more contagious.”

Viral videos can be great for business, according to Voltz and Grobe whose viral videos generated sales spikes for both Diet Coke and Mentos.

“You can use online video to build a strong, honest, authentic relationship with your consumers.”

You can also connect with a whole lot of potential customers on the cheap.

YouTube draws a billion unique viewers every month who watch upwards of 6 billion hours of video.

And unlike print advertising and television commercials, it won’t cost you a dime to post to YouTube.

But competition for attention is fierce, with 100 hours of video posted every minute to YouTube.

For every video that gets millions of views, there are others that never find an audience.

These are the videos that confuse product shots with money shots, use actors instead of real people and have scripts instead of spontaneous moments.

Voltz and Grobe recommend your business be the source of the content that makes us smile. “Take credit for being the cool people who made this cool video happen.”

Add a title card at the end of the video that identifies your business as the sponsor.

“Think of a video as a gift you are giving to your audience. You want your gift to make us smile, so that when we think of you, we smile all over again.

“If you give us something awesome with no strings attached, we will love you for it.”

30 tips for getting a job & making your mark

Drawing on lessons learned and advice given over my career, 30 tips for getting a job and marking your mark that I shared with students in Mohawk College’s postgrad public relations certificate program…

  1. Aim for one 20-minute informational interview per week with someone who’s doing what you hope to do after graduation.
  2. Informational interviews build your network / fan club of people who can hire you or recommend you to others.
  3. Questions to ask in your informational interviews: what’s your day like, what do you enjoy most, what’s the greatest challenge, what’s changed in the industry, what advice would you give a freshly minted grad.
  4. Never ask for a job or give your resume at the end of an informational interview.
  5. Always send a thank-you note after your informational interview.
  6. No one owes you a job, no matter how much student debt you may have or how many degrees, diplomas and certificates to your name.
  7. When applying for a job, it’s all about what you can do for the employer and not why the employer should hire you.
  8. Most employers will be more interested in your portfolio than your transcripts. Talk about what you did while at school.
  9. Show initiative by doing your homework before your interview – read annual reports & media coverage. Be prepared.
  10. Above all else, employers are hiring for fit and attitude. Technical skills can be learned on the job. Can they see themselves spending eight hours a day with you?
  11. Hiring is a time-intensive, high-stakes proposition. Your boss is judged by her boss on whether she makes smart or poor hiring choices.
  12. First impressions count in your job interview and within the first minute, an employer may well have decided if you’re a hit or a miss, in or out.
  13. It’s okay to be nervous during your interview. Bored, distracted and entitled are deadly. And if you seem unenthusiastic during the interview, what will you be like three months into the job?
  14. Yes, employers will be checking out your Facebook page and Twitter feed. won’t help your chances.
  15. Don’t overreach and exaggerate your experience and qualifications. Hiring committees have finely tuned BS detectors.
  16.  Ask questions during your job interview. Make it a conversation rather than a monologue. A good question to ask – what do you need me to do within my first three months on the job.
  17. On the question of salary expectations, it’s not what you want to get paid. It’s what the employer can afford and what they already pay others.
  18. Always send a thank-you note after your interview.
  19. Be a low maintenance, drama-free hire.
  20. Don’t expect ribbons or gold stars. A paycheque is your reward.
  21. Never confuse your boss with your mom or dad.
  22. Your boss is not, and does not want to be, your best friend.
  23. Executive assistants can make your job so much easier or so much harder. Always treat them with courtesy and respect. They’re gatekeepers.
  24. Play to your strengths. Invest your time building on what you do best rather than shoring up  your weaknesses and where you don’t have passion.
  25. Be great at one thing and do it better than the rest.
  26. Be curious. Working in PR is an all-access, backstage VIP pass to your organization. Talk with anyone. Everyone has a story.
  27. Aim to hit one home run every year at work or in the community. Do something you’d be proud to tell your kids and future employer.
  28. Underpromise and overdeliver.
  29. Writing quick, clean and compelling copy is a core skill. Be a better writer by being a voracious reader.
  30. You don’t have to sell your soul to work in PR. You’ll find an organization, cause and leader who share your values and principles. Work there.

Old dogs, new tricks & rebooting the employee newsletter in the Age of YouTube

I’ve spent a good chunk of my 20 years in PR writing newsletters, newspapers, magazines and blogs for employee communications.

On Sept. 18, my colleague Sean Coffey and I stepped away from our keyboards, picked up a camera and microphone and started turning stories into videos for Mohawk College.

We launched a weekly video series called MoCast.  Posted every Thursday on YouTube, the series sings the praises of our students and grads, faculty and staff and college partners. And we showcase the places where our students learn and our grads work.

Our primary audience is Mohawk’s 1,000 faculty and staff working at four campuses in Hamilton and Brantford, Ontario.


We launched MoCast for four reasons:

  1. Sean works with our Vice President Academic to put out an e-newsletter to faculty and staff. The newsletter includes a video clip from the VPA.  Lots of faculty and staff watch the videos.  The written content in the newsletter doesn’t generate nearly as many clicks and views.
  2. Other employers are communicating with their staff via video. The Mayo Clinic puts out award-winning videos that served as our inspiration.
  3. Producing and posting videos is a low-cost proposition and we had the skills, journalism training, institutional knowledge plus the tools and technology to make it happen.
  4. It’s the Age of YouTube. More than one billion unique users visit YouTube every month and watch over six billion hours of video. It’s the world’s number two search engine behind Google. And 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Chances are, the majority of our faculty and staff have spent time on YouTube.


We didn’t strike a task force, focus group, working group or planning committee. We didn’t put together a proposal, project charter or PowerPoint presentation.

We just started shooting segments in early September. We gave the senior leadership team a preview of episode one on a Wednesday. And then posted the video to YouTube the next morning.


We’ve loosely modeled MoCasts after CBC Canada’s Rick Mercer Report, minus the rants and without the (intentional) humour.

Sean shoots and edits and I do the on-camera interviews. We aim to make the interviews more like conversations and less like hostage videos.

We’ve found that the question that always solicits the best response is why. Why do you do what you do? Why does this matter to our students? Why does this matter to Mohawk? Why does this matter to you?

Asking that question invariably leads people to share their passion, purpose and pride for their work.

Each episode has three recurring segments so our audience becomes familiar with MoCast and knows what to expect week to week:

  1. In Focus – We drill down into a single topic – a project, initiative or issue – that would be of general interest to our faculty and staff.
  2. Spotlight – We showcase students, grads, faculty and staff who are making a difference at the college and in our community. We interview folks who’ve received awards and accolades for their work and set the bar in terms of best practices.
  3. Roadtrip – We get show and tell guided tours of cool places where students are learning and our grads are working. Many of our faculty and staff don’t have the opportunity to travel between campuses so this is a good way of highlighting what’s happening across the college.

In most episodes, we also include some self-deprecating outtakes and bloopers after the credits roll.

We’re getting better at wrestling the segments down to around eight or nine minutes. Early episodes were running 14 to 15 minutes. However, we found the length wasn’t an issue for most of our primary audience because the content is relevant and their interest in the videos is high.


Sean shoots the videos in HD using a Canon Rebel T5i and a wireless Azden microphone.  He then edits using Adobe Premiere Pro. Sean uses a single camera and we try to keep edits to a minimum.

Beyond attending a Ragan Communications video boot camp, Sean’s self-taught when it comes to shooting and editing.


We have just two rules for MoCast.

  1. We’ll never interview anyone who’s parked in a meeting room or sitting behind a desk in an office.  We do all our interviews in hallways, labs and classrooms, with the hustle and bustle of the college as our backdrop.
  2. We treat all our guests with respect. While we don’t script and rehearse the interviews in advance, we don’t ask trick or surprise questions that catch people off-guard. If they ask for a retake, we do a retake.


We post MoCast every Thursday to the college’s YouTube channel. We share the link to the videos through social media (Twitter at #mocast, Facebook, LinkedIn and the college blog). The videos also play on hallway monitors throughout Mohawk’s largest campus.


We’ve received excellent unsolicited feedback from faculty and staff (informative and entertaining is a recurring theme) and we’re getting a lot of story ideas and requests sent our way. The feedback and ideas far exceed what we ever received when we were putting out traditional print pubs.

A formal survey will likely happen next Spring once we’ve broadcast a full season of MoCast.

The episodes are averaging 600 unique users (our goal was 500 users) and the views climb week by week.  While far from 14 or 140 million views, our goal isn’t to produce viral videos. It’s to build and maintain a core audience of faculty and staff.

The videos have also been shown at open houses for prospective students and programs are posting segments on their webpages.


There are three key benefits to a video series for employees:

  1. It’s informal recognition on steroids. MoCast is proving to be a great way to publicly celebrate the contributions and achievements of our students, grads, faculty and staff. And the folks we showcase can easily share their video clips with friends and family.
  2. It makes the rest of our jobs easier. Yes, there’s a time commitment (Roadtrips take about 90 minutes while the In Focus and Spotlight segments can take up to 30 minutes each).  But we recycle the segments for speeches, media pitches and award nominations.
  3. It gets us out from behind our desks and onto the frontlines. One of the concerns in launching MoCast was that we’d run out of stories and the series would end after three or four episodes. If anything, we’ve had the opposite challenge of too many stories and not enough episodes (we’ve shot the first 12 episodes and have the Winter schedule fully booked). We’ve had the opportunity to meet with dozens and dozens of students, grads, faculty, staff and college partners which has strengthened and widened our networks across the college and in the community.


So if you’re thinking of adding video to your mix of internal communications, we highly recommend it. Pick up a camera, follow your news judgment and start striking up conversations with folks on the frontlines. Your videos don’t have to be perfect and polished, just authentic.

And feel free to give us a shout for advice or suggestions. We’re still working our way up the learning curve and looking to get better with every episode. Students aren’t the only ones learning at Mohawk College.

Review: Robert Kiyosaki’s Why A Students Work for C Students and B Students Work for the Government

Why A StudentsThis review first ran in the Nov. 11 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

Why A Students Work for C Students and B Students Work for the Government

By Robert Kiyosaki

Plata Publishing


Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.

Show him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

Be the one who supplies the fish, poles and tackle and you’re set for life.

It’s the lesson we need to start teaching our kids, according to author Robert Kiyosaki, who’s also penned the best selling Rich Dad, Poor Dad series.

“The world of the future belongs to those who can embrace change, see the future and anticipate its needs and respond to new opportunities and challenges with creativity and agility and passion,” says Kiyosaki.

So are we preparing our kids for that future?  Are we training them to be employees or entrepreneurs?  Are we teaching them to climb or build corporate ladders? And are we showing them how to work for money or have money work for them?

Kiyosaki says we need to stop telling our kids to go to school to get a good job. The focus should be on going to school to learn how to create high-paying jobs.

“The problem is that our educational system trains students to be ‘A’ students – academics – or ‘B’ students – bureaucrats. Our schools do not train our young people to be ‘C’ students – capitalists. Furthermore, it’s these ‘C’ students who so often follow an entrepreneurial path, carrying the torch of capitalism and creating new jobs.”

True capitalists are entrepreneurs. They fundamentally believe that the more people they serve, the more effective they become. They risk everything to launch companies, create jobs and build prosperity.

“Capitalists serve people in many ways, the least of which is stepping up to the challenge of free marks in producing more with less…including better products and services at better prices,” says Kiyosaki. “From my point of view, that’s not greed. It’s ambition and drive. They’ve enriched other lives on the road to becoming rich and I have a hard time labeling that as greed.”

So how do we help more of our kids think like entrepreneurs rather than employees?

Give your kids a head start and unfair advantage with a solid financial education at home, says Kiyosaki.  Prepare them for the real world of money where financial statements matter far more than report cards.  Make income, expenses, assets and liabilities the foundation of their financial vocabulary. Drive home the importance of building assets that put money into their pockets. And foster their entrepreneurial spirit.`

Reading Kiyosaki’s book and playing Monopoly, with its rent-generating green houses and red hotels, are good places to start.

“Every child has the potential to grow into a rich person, a poor person or a middle-class person,” says Kiyosaki. “Parents have the power to influence which one their child becomes.”