Category Archives: Story-Telling

The Wonders of Baking Soda

Have you ever thought of all the uses of baking soda? For such a small product, it can work wonders for you and your home!

Audio is Half the Story

Good audio isn’t everything, but it is a significant part of a great video.  In fact visual is only half of the experience, and sound is the other.  Therefore it is safe to say good video without successful audio only provides you with half of the story. Some of the best videos join several audio techniques such as natural sounds, sound effects, music, and voice-overs to convey their message. The following videos are ones that show the use of these techniques to produce a successful campaign.  To get the full effect try closing your eyes and imagining the scene based on the sound cues.

NSFW. A hunter shoots a bear
This fun but comical piece uses some great sound effects.  At the beginning of the video you’ll hear sounds of nature such as birds chirping.  This sets the scene immediately without even seeing the video.  Then you hear a sound reminiscent of someone brushing their teeth and a conversation being held between a few gentlemen.  The excellent sound cues continue with the growling of a bear and a mean cocking his gun in fear.   Without even watching the video, the viewer knows exactly what going on based on the audio elements.

There’s a soldier in all of us 
Call of Duty:Black Ops (a popular video game) released this promotional back in 2010.  The sound effects play a large part in the video because there is not a lot of dialogue between characters.  Instead you hear the sounds of war; automatic weapons, helicopters, bombs, with an iconic song (reminiscent of songs that chronicle war in America) in the background.

Gas powered everything 
This is an interesting video promoting Nissan Leaf.  In the video you’ll hear several sound effects of what sounds like engines firing up.  For example, you hear something that sounds like an engine and then an alarm clock going off.  In the end you hear a calming voice say, “What if everything ran on gas? Then again, what if everything didn’t.” Classic

I decided to create a pop under add using only audio to paint a vivid story through sound cues.  Check out the audio below

Interactivity and Empathy

Telling a story using text and images can be an effective method of relaying information, but an even more effective way is using interactive content.  Interactive content not only helps the audience remember more information, but it also has more potential to arouse emotions and empathy (ability to understand what other people are feeling and respond accordingly) in users.  Interactive content is far more useful in provoking emotion and inciting action because users can vicariously experience the topic through interaction with the material, as opposed to simply reading the material.

A great example of interactive interaction is a project done by McKinney (a marketing firm in Raleigh, NC) called SPENT.  SPENT is a game that raises awareness of people living in extreme poverty.  Instead of just text and images, this game prompts users to make decisions as though they are living in extreme poverty levels. I remembered more statistics and information than I have ever remembered from just reading articles about poverty.  Having to make decisions such as watching my child perform in a school play or taking a side job that would pay for past due expenses provoked a feeling of sorrow. This game not only gives you the information but it provides you with an entire experience that allows you to understand on a deeper level the problem of poverty.

SPENT Game

Another great example of Interactive project is Budget Hero.  This game allows users to  learn more about tax dollars and the federal budget, but in a fun way.  For the average person, reading information about tax dollars and spending can be very arduous and boring.  It is also a topic that incites a lot of emotion for people who follow it carefully.  However, for people like me who are not familiar with the debate of tax dollars and spending, this game is very informative.  By making a topic interactive the boring and uninteresting becomes informative and entertaining.

Budget Hero Game

The underlying theme in these projects is creating an experience that allows users to connect on a deeper level with the information.  This actually falls in line with what I decided to do for my capstone project, an interactive presentation on the Mayan culture.   A lot of people have heard about the Doomsday 2012 theory but many don’t know about the culture behind the myth and their practices.  Therefore I wanted to offer a fun and interactive way for people to learn about the interesting Mesoamerican people.  When people can interact and take part in their learning, they are more likely to remember the information presented to them, and if the topic calls for it, they can use the emotional experience from the project to relate and react.

What Makes an Image Iconic

Everyone has seen them: those images that draw some emotion; those images that we consistently connect with; those images like Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa; those images that still have meaning regardless of time and culture. Those images are iconic. But why? What qualities or constructs contribute to timeless pieces?  Martin Kemp (professor of History of Art at Oxford University) says  “There is no necessary set of clearly defined factors that are infallibly shared by all iconic images.”  This could be true because if there were clearly defined guidelines and factors that guaranteed the iconic factor of an image, everyone would be able to produce one.  Even though a clear cut definition probably doesn’t exist, there are some reoccurring themes present in most images the world has deemed as iconic.

  1. Mass of recognition:  This is one of the biggest factors that makes an image iconic.  It should be so well-known that it becomes the norm for everyone to have seen it.  They are recognizable regardless of their age and time.  Most iconic photos outlast the author and the person (if applicable) in the image.
    Photo of the first man on the moon
  2. Iconic images perfectly captures an event or artistic style:  If the image captures an event or style, it will most likely be referenced anytime the event or style is discussed.  Eventually the image will become synonymous with the topic.  For example photos of the supermodel Twiggy made her an icon of the 60s.  According to Julia Deluliis “The key here is that the image becomes so closely associated with the topic (idea, person, event, etc) that the image gets discussed almost every time the topic is discussed.”

    This photo of twiggy is iconic of the 60s and propelled twiggy to be an icon herself.

  3. Carries multiple associations for many people: Iconic images can appeal to a variety of  people and host multiple associations.  For example, the photo of the swastika can symbolize several different things for people of different cultures and backgrounds.
  4. Impact on Public Opinion:  In image that shapes public opinion or directly results in action can become iconic.  However this type of image can be the most difficult to capture and prove.

    Lynching; Lawrence Beitler, 1930
    Thousands of whites descended on an Indiana park to hang a pair of black men accused of raping a white woman.

  5.  Provokes Emotion:  When an image emotionally resonates with its audiences it can become iconic. These are the images that pull at your heart-strings making you feel empathy, sympathy, pride, and other emotions.

    Photo capturing the spirit of America after WWII

Although there are possibly thousands of opinions about iconic images, the ones above are general ideas.  Martin Kemp authored a book, Christ to Coke: How Image Becomes Icon,  in which he chronicles the exploration of the topic and list several images that people consider iconic.  He writes:

“…there are tendencies that are recurrent to varying degrees in various permutations. Some are concerned predominately with meaning; a simplicity of message that is once definitive and compelling but that is also open to a broad, rich, and varied series of associations; the ability to work with both generic and specific meanings; and openness to varied kinds of individual and collective engagement; a special interplay with shared human values; the focus of devotional or cult practice; the forging of collective identity.”

For more information on Kemp’s book and to see the iconic image detailed in his book, go here.

Advertising in the Age of Social Media

Social Media has changed a lot of society’s practices (shocker!), one being the way products are advertised.  Long gone are the days of the Mad Mean philosophy “Advertising is based on happiness.  We make the lie, we invent the want.”  Consumers want the truth, and social media has made it easy to find.

Today people easily share reviews, opinions, and thoughts on products through their social circles.  Whether the opinions are positive or negative, they spread like wild-fire, and because of this advertisers have to be “transparent” and honest about their products.  Consumers want advertisers to be sincere, helpful, and knowledgeable, not pushy, deceptive, and desperate.

Social media platforms allow the professional communicator to get up close and personal with their potential consumers.  They can build relationships which encourages brand loyalty and consumer interest.  Marshall Loeb a writer for Wall Street Journal wrote “With the growing popularity of social media platforms, businesses are embracing the technology to build community and strengthen consumer interest.”

For advertisers there are few steps they could follow to ensure their social media campaigns are effective.

  1. Know the Platform:  advertisers should have an understanding of who is using social media and the best practices for specific platforms.  For example, advertising on Twitter and Facebook are very different.  Knowing the differences and best practices allows advertisers to promote their products more effectively.
  2. Be Transparent:  Consumers want to know the company behind the product.  The more they know about the people or ideas behind the product, the better the connection.  In the same token, always be honest about your products, even recognizing the negative feedback.
  3. Engage:  Consumers are honest and they can give great feedback.  Not only should advertisers listen actively, but they should also inform their audience that they are listening by providing feedback.

Pampering on a Budget

Being an Elon  graduate student is what it’s hyped up to be… lots of researching, projects, and reading accompanied by long and sometimes sleepless nights (especially around finals).  In addition you have to manage life outside of the classroom such as networking opportunities, family, and friends.  With all the demands of school it is easy to sometimes feel overwhelmed and stressed out. There are thousands of tips on how to stay ahead such as developing good time management skills or writing schedules and sticking to them, but what is equally important is taking care of YOU.

Pampering yourself is essential for stress management, your physical health and your emotional well-being.  The relaxation you get from positive activities triggers the relaxation response, which can ease chronic stress.  Therefore finding time to do something nice or relaxing every once in a while is important, even if you don’t have the resources to do it often.  Fortunately there are several places around Elon that can help you, and I’ve had the opportunity to visit a couple of them. The two parlors described below are two of my picks based on their prices and quality of service.  However, I’ve also had moments when I needed to relax but lacked the money to splurge. That’s when I had to be a little thrifty and do it myself.  Check out my tips below.

Day Spas and Massage Parlors

Treating yourself to the warm, experienced hands of a masseuse or to a facial, mani or pedi can be great ways to relax and release those feel-good endorphins.  You can escape from the stressful reality of grad school papers and exams while taking care of your body.   We all know graduate school can be very expensive and justifying spending money at a spa can be challenging.  However, there are places at Elon that offer great luxury-style services at affordable prices.  More importantly businesses often offer “specials” that allow students to get the same services at reduced prices.

  • iSalon located just 10 minutes from campus in Alamance Crossing is a day spa that offers a variety of services such as massages and facials.  Here at this relaxation paradise you can receive a 30-minute body massage for $45 or an hour body massage for $65.  If the price is a little too steep for you, try a “Lunch Hour” mini facial treatment for $35.  This spa is also known for the specials they offer, so always check their website for the right deal before you head in.
  • Christine Valmy is another great spa in Burlington that offers slightly better prices than its competitors.  For example, you can receive a 30-minute full body massage for $30 or an hour message for $60.  They offer manicures for just $20 and “Express Facials” for $40.  If you can afford to spend a little more money you can try their Select Package deal for $65 which includes an express facial, half hour massage, and a make-up session. Get more bang for your buck here!

There are other day spas and massage parlors located around Burlington that offer some of the same types of deals. Remember, it’s okay to indulge a little!

Do it yourself

For those of you who can’t fathom spending money at a spa or massage parlor, there are other ways to escape the stress-inducing environment of graduate school in the privacy of your own home.

  • Set up your own spa with a bathtub full of water, bubble bath, and aromatherapy candles.  To add to the ambiance try setting up some music in your bathroom; the right music can soothe you, taking you to another place far from reality. For an added touch deep condition your hair and deep cleanse your facial pores by adding a clay masque.  Lay in the tub for as long as you like, until you’re all wrinkled up from the water!  This simple treat will leave you feeling relaxed, and all you need is a tub and a bit of privacy.
  • After a nice relaxing bath, treat your skin with your favorite deep conditioning skin cream.  For ladies, polishing your toenails and fingernails can leave you feeling extra pampered.
  • Recruit the help of your significant other or buddy for a friendly massage.  Even the smallest and shortest ones can work wonders for your stress levels.  If that seems a little awkward or if you’re flying solo, try a self-massager that can make you feel just as good.

Pampering yourself can be the key to less stress during your time in graduate school, but it doesn’t mean you have to get a massage or go to a spa every week.  Simply indulging in the little things that make you happy , like a nice bath or a quick facial, can make a significant difference.   When you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed, take a moment for yourself.  In the end you’ll be glad you did. To find more pampering tips and suggestions look here.

Keep the Reader Reading

Writing for the web has become increasingly important over the years. As more and more users flock to the web on a daily basis, online articles and blogs are receiving more viewership. While gazing multiple articles featuring content on how to write for digital mediums I noticed one prominent detail:  articles should be short and scannable.  According to one publication a writer should write no more than 50% of the text they would use in a hard-copy publication.  This can be attributed to web reader’s short attention span and the idea that reading content on the web is more difficult physically than reading text on traditional platforms.  Research also suggests that online readers scan text for the information they want.  Readers want their information quick and in a hurry.  If they don’t get it in a timely fashion, they are off to the next hyperlink!

There are some exceptions of course, and those exceptions are the really good web articles that people read in its entirety.  So how do you keep the reader’s attention span and keep them reading?

1)      Start with a good headline: This is the first thing readers see and if it doesn’t peak their interest initially, they are less likely to be excited about the article. In fact, they probably won’t even read it.  A good headline has key words in it, and it promises a solution or beneficial information.  For example instead of the headline “Fat Burning Foods,” one could try “5 Powerful Foods That Will Help You Burn Fat”

2)      Keep it simple: Articles for the web should be concise, only detailing the information promised in the headline.  Eliminate unnecessary words and cut out the boring parts.  Unless you are writing for personal reasons consider the audience’s attention.  Publish what is useful interesting, and most informative for them. As one author put it “Write for the web, not for your ego.”

3)      Use correct structure: Keep your reader reading with web friendly format! A simple rule to remember is use lots of white space.  Don’t overwhelm the reader with lengthy paragraphs. Embrace the line break! You could also use catchy subtitles to break the content up and bulleted lists that provides a visual break for readers.

4)      Add some or your personality: Nobody wants to read a bland, boring, lifeless article!  What makes articles unique is the author’s voice.  Try to have a light humorous tone when writing.  This will compel the reader to keep reading.  Try to use active voice and exciting verbs.   For example, which sounds more compelling (SPOILER ALERT: I vote B):

  1. You can lose weight by eating apples, strawberries, and bananas.
  2. Blast away the fat by enjoying fresh apples, ripe strawberries, and heart-healthy bananas!

Following these tips can help keep the reader reading, avoiding the fate of most web articles! For more tips, check here.