What You’ll Learn
Sheila Corson at Okanogan County PUD shares tips utility communicators can use to quickly create quality video content to tell their stories. The software programs mentioned include vyond.com, animaker.com and powtoon.com.
Guest SpeakerSheila Corson
Transcripts have been lightly edited for clarity and readability.
Intro: A production of Pioneer Utility Resources. StoryConnect: The Podcast, helping communicators discover ideas to shape their stories and connect with their customers.
Andy Johns: What are some ways you can use technology to make storytelling with video even easier? That’s what we’ll be talking about on this episode of StoryConnect: The Podcast. My name is Andy Johns, your host with Pioneer, and I’m joined on this episode with Sheila Corson, who is the public relations coordinator at Okanogan County PUD. Sheila, thanks for joining me.
Sheila Corson: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for having me here.
Andy Johns: So we are here once again at the beating heart of utility communications in the Northwest. We’re at the NIC Conference with NWPPA up here in Anchorage. And Sheila had a session that I wanted to be sure that we pulled her on to an episode for. Her session was called “Video 101,” and it talked about some of the, uh, in addition to the increasing demand for video, what some of the cool tools are for communicators to use them. So let’s run through, give us kind of the the the top line of what your session was about.
Sheila Corson: All right. So the spiel. Basically, you know, video has changed over the last several years. And I think a lot of people are still pretty intimidated by the idea of creating their own videos. But with all of the technological solutions out there, there are a lot of options for communicators to get into video, and it actually be pretty user friendly and work for them. So today, earlier I shared a particular program, or yesterday, I don’t know, you know, time kind of goes over the top of each other at the NIC Conference.
Andy Johns: Here at the conference is what I’ve been saying. I don’t know what day it is.
Sheila Corson: Here at the conference.
Andy Johns: Here at the conference.
Sheila Corson: Whatever. But yes, I showed about the Vyond tutorial, but there are a couple of others that are worth mentioning in all of these lists that I went over and researched some of these top programs. Vyond was one of the top, Animaker, Powtoon, and I had several other people come up to me later who said, oh yeah, I used Animaker or Powtoon, or Vyond, or guess what? I just signed up for a free trial since seeing your session. And that’s the beauty of it really is just gets started. You just start trying things, you know. As communicators, we’re always having to adapt and thankfully technology is kind of helping us do that.
Andy Johns: It sounds like it. You may recognize Sheila from the wise landscaping stuff that she has shared with us for Pioneer Studios. So she does good work. She knows what she’s doing. And I know there are a lot of folks looking forward to the session. So what are some of the ways that you have used those platforms to help you tell the stories that you need to tell in the utility world from time to time?
Sheila Corson: Yeah. You know, there’s a couple of reasons why I’ve gone to these animated videos. One is because whether you’re talking about the younger generation or the current or the older or whatever generation you’re talking about, creating visuals is a great way to explain things in a more simple form rather than just paragraph after paragraph. Right? So the picture worth a thousand words kind of thing, multiply that by another 1000, probably for video. So one of the ones that we have done, you mentioned wise landscaping, and we’ll be talking about that a bit tomorrow in a NIC talk actually.
Andy Johns: It’s called a teaser. Good stuff.
Sheila Corson: Oh, yeah. So that was a big one for us, was actually turning all of these landscaping concepts into visuals because it’s easy again to write paragraph after paragraph about what to do with your leaves and around your HVAC and watch for this, and here’s where you should plant your trees. But it’s another thing to actually draw it out on a map for them, you know, and then kind of bring your animated characters to come in and actually do some work in their yard, you know, visually and make it more fun too. It makes it more fun. One of my favorite little clips we did for the wise landscaping was actually a water conservation tip where you use your water twice. So if you’re going to wash your car or wash your dog, wash it in the yard, because then you’re also watering your grass.
Andy Johns: Makes sense.
Sheila Corson: So I got to put a little cute animated dog in there, you know, so that’s adorable. Any chance you get for some things that are a little more fun, let’s do it.
Andy Johns: One of the basic truths of the Internet, if you can put a cute dog in it…
Sheila Corson: Exactly.
Andy Johns: We should do it.
Sheila Corson: We know this. But then there’s also the more complicated concepts that sometimes we use charts and graphs and that sort of thing, but being able to animate some of that. So just explaining what we do, what our bills mean. When you get that bill in your mail and you see there’s a basic charge or whatever people call it, that standard monthly charge, plus the kilowatt hour charge, plus the, you know, whatever else you have on there, taxes, all of that, people see the bottom line and maybe they pay it, but they really know what all the different aspects are of the bill and all those charges and what they mean and why we have them broken down like that. So it’s an easier way to kind of pull those things out and illustrate what those are for.
Andy Johns: So let’s talk beyond the technical and get into like the planning and the execution of something like this. So. How far out, when you’ve got a video that you’re planning, what kind of steps do you take? How do you go about identifying, Yes, this story needs a video. No, this information maybe doesn’t, or maybe we’ll get to a one day. And then what kind of time do you put into it, or does your your team or the folks that you work with put into it in terms of getting it ready from concept to delivery?
Sheila Corson: So in terms of my team…
Andy Johns: Well, you smiled when I asked that, so I think I know what that meant.
Sheila Corson: Yeah, you probably could guess that means that I am the communications team.
Andy Johns: Right, the entire communication.
Sheila Corson: Yes. And I do get some help…
Andy Johns: Between those two headphones.
Sheila Corson: Yeah, I should. I should mention I get some help from our energy services coordinator, and she’ll be chatting with me tomorrow. But when it comes to actually executing, typically that’s going to be me.
Andy Johns: Okay.
Sheila Corson: So usually we kind of, it goes back to that whole idea of really complicated concepts not being multiple paragraphs and breaking it down. So that’s one of the first triggers for me is, okay, this is something complicated. Is there some way I can illustrate this visually that’s going to really explain it better than expecting somebody to read an essay, right? So that’s one of my first triggers. The other would then just be, would it be more fun? Does it humanize it? Does it actually help tell that story, to not just tell the story, but show the story? And so those are some of the things that I’ve been moving to and then knowing that more than ever people are looking for more of a video engagement. So if I can video it, I will video it.
Andy Johns: All right.
Sheila Corson: Depending on what concept I’m trying to do, depends on the time frame for that. But I usually start with the general concept and then try to break it down in the most simple ideas. So when it came to wanting to talk about the budget process, I knew it wasn’t just going to be, “Well, here’s when our budget meetings are,” right? So you need to go, okay, what is even public power to begin with? What do we do for budget? Oh, we can give anybody that.
Sheila Corson: You can request that as a member of the public. Oh, you can come to our budget workshops, like even basic things like that. I shouldn’t assume people know. And then how do we set the budget? And again, the rates, the charges. So coming up with what concepts are, writing the script, out running it by a few other sets of eyes. Because even though I don’t have a team, I have a team, you know.
Andy Johns: Right.
Sheila Corson: And then usually by the time I’m at the script, I’m going to start playing with those videos. And the great thing is a lot of these programs make it so easy. They have their built in animations. You’re not coding anything, you’re not having to run out and shoot a bunch of video and try to get some people to show in them and then writing waivers. If you animate them, you’re good to go. And I would say probably from start to finish, most of these projects I can get done in a month. You know, it depends, of course, on how busy I am with everything else, how complicated that project is, but a lot of the time start to finish, I mean, I’m ready in a month or so. And they’re ready to go, and then I have them for future purposes.
Andy Johns: Exactly. Yeah. Make them build them with the way where, you know, they’re going to have a pretty good shelf life, last for a long time. It’s perfect. Well, let’s dive in to the specifics of those platforms. So you mentioned a couple of them. You know, a couple of them we may want to spell because it’s an audio piece here, and then we’ll link to some of them in the show notes of the podcast so that folks can click there. But you mentioned several platforms. Which one are you using most often, and why? What are some of the advantages of using some of those in particular over, you know, picking one or the others? Or is it mainly just personal preference?
Sheila Corson: So it’s Vyond. It’s V-Y-O-N-D.
Andy Johns: Of course it is.
Sheila Corson: Because it can’t be normal spelling like what you would expect.
Andy Johns: Those URLs were all taken.
Sheila Corson: Yes. Right. Yeah, you’re limited. So that’s the one that I actually more or less inherited. HR was already using it when I came and joined. And it was actually a shared subscription between a few other local utilities. So it was already there for us. And I really do like the functionality. There’s just so many different aspects. And then what’s also great about these online software programs is they’re always updating, so they’re adding more content all the time, more functionality to make it even better. And I mean, every time, every month, basically there’s a new new release list, so to speak.
Andy Johns: Nice. New features.
Sheila Corson: So I use Vyond a lot, and because it has multiple options with you can do kind of the whiteboard kind have the marker come out and draw things for you. Or you can use more just like what you would think of more of a cartoony kind of look for it. So those are fun. The other ones that I talked about, Animaker. A-N-I-M-A-K-E-R. Animaker.
Andy Johns: Well, done.
Sheila Corson: Yes, that’s one of the top rated, I think, digital programs in the world right now. It’s used by a lot of companies, a very similar kind of setup with the different styles that you can choose from. And then customizing your own avatar, of course, is always fun. And all of these programs have that option. I don’t know that any of them have the option on the free version, and I think that’s how they hook you.
Andy Johns: That’s how they hook you.
Sheila Corson: Yes. Then Powtoon. P-O-W-T-O-O-N. Powtoon is another very popular one, and that’s one of the ones I heard people say that they’ve used before. And I think that one hooks you by offering you like four days unlocked access to all the premium content, you know? But those I played with a little bit because when I looked at probably 20 different top ten lists or top seven or whatever it was, those two were the highest rated by far, and Vyond was kind of tied with a few others for second.
Andy Johns: So I’m assuming that when somebody goes into one of these programs and this might be tough to describe because we’re in an audio medium here, but nobody’s logging in to one of these programs to make a sequel to Toy Story or…
Sheila Corson: Draw it from scratch.
Andy Johns: Movie quality, special effects. But what kind of things? You mentioned whiteboard videos, that kind of thing. What sorts of things are you able to do pretty easily in there? The Avatars, are you moving them around, or what kind of things can you do?
Sheila Corson: Yes. All right. So what’s nice is you can upload some of your own content too. So if they’re missing some pieces that you think are important, you can draw them in Illustrator or something else and pop those guys in there. And then there’s some ways that you can kind of custom animate some things. It’s a little bit complicated and difficult, nigh impossible to really do that with an avatar only because you’re not just talking about you move this thing from here to there, but you’re talking about moving arms and legs.
Andy Johns: That is the first time anybody’s ever used “nigh” on the podcast for this. So well done there.
Sheila Corson: Well, you know, I’m…
We’ve talked a lot about words here this week.
Sheila Corson: a classy sort of person.
Andy Johns: I could tell that.
Sheila Corson: Yes. So anyways, back on topic there. What’s great is all of these they have a lot of built in actions. And it’s funny, sometimes I just go in there and just start playing around with the avatar and like, well, I wonder if there’s something where I can mow the lawn. Well, yep, there’s just a button you can click to make your avatar mow the lawn.
Andy Johns: Bingo.
Sheila Corson: Right. So there’s a ton of different things. And to do it with different expressions. You can mow the lawn happily or angrily.
Andy Johns: I have done both.
Sheila Corson: You could be quite frustrated if you’d like to be. You could be confused when you’re mowing the lawn. And there’s lots of random ones that I wouldn’t expect too. But you know, a lot of these platforms are built with a particular clientele in mind. I think Vyond one of their big clientele is actually the health and safety kind of world. And so they’re going to have a lot of stuff built in there where you’ve got an entire scene built, where it’s in a hospital or in a cafe or it’s in an office setting. And you can just trade out one of the characters for your own, have them do something different, and pick up a pile of boxes and walk off. You know, there’s some that are clearly made for office safety where you’re not lifting properly or you are properly. So all kinds of things like that just built right into it.
Andy Johns: But they’ve got the existing libraries there.
Sheila Corson: Yeah. Huge libraries. And as I mentioned before, more all the time, which is great.
Andy Johns: Excellent. Well, I think that’s a good kind of overview of those, and we’ll include the links in the show notes, like I said. So I guess the last question I had for you is what kind of advice would you have for somebody who maybe is, you know, hasn’t dipped a toe in the water yet when it comes to video or somebody who’s kind of intimidated by, you know, I don’t know if I can do that. What advice would you have for somebody who’s thinking about getting into video?
Sheila Corson: Well, as they say, you never know until you try. And I think sometimes we defeat ourselves before we’ve even gone to battle. So if you’re interested at all, just try it out. You may find that it is complicated and way over your head. But then there are people like myself and others in the public power world who would gladly help you through the process. But a lot of these programs are meant for people who have either never done it before or who have, you know, never really tried it in this way. Or they’re expecting people to come in with no frame of reference or very little. They’re not expecting this to be the, you know, Toy Story creators.
Andy Johns: Film school students or.
Sheila Corson: Yeah, that’s not who this is built for. This is built for those of us who did not learn this in school, who did not get some mentorship program in place. And they’re going to have lots of tutorials and things to help you through and, you know, just play around with it. Just try have fun. And you never know. You never know. You may love it, and you may be awesome at it.
Andy Johns: Right. And like has been the theme for most of the sessions today it seems like, the theme has been optimized what you’ve got and then expand. So give it a try. Try to optimize it. If not, then move on. Try, try something else. Do what you do well and then discard the rest.
Sheila Corson: That’s right.
Andy Johns: So great. Well, thank you so much for joining me on this episode.
Sheila Corson: Yes. Thank you so much for having me.
Andy Johns: She is Sheila Corson. She’s the PR extraordinaire at Okanagan PUD. I am Andy Johns, your host with Pioneer. And until we talk again, keep telling your story.
Intro: StoryConnect is produced by Pioneer Utility Resources, a communications cooperative that is built to share your story. Our associate producer is Sarah Wootten. StoryConnect is engineered by Lucas Smith of Lucky Sound Studio.