Indianapolis Motor Speedway President & CEO Jeff Belskus Turning to Video Blogging

As an Indianapolis 500 blogger, I occasionally get news from the folks at Indy Car and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (although they’re part of the same family, Indy Car is the governing body of the sport of Indy Car racing, and the IMS is the track the Indianapolis 500 is held on).

Anyway, I got something yesterday that caught my professional eye: the IMS President & CEO Jeff Belskus is going to start video blogging as a way to reach Indy 500 fans.Screenshot of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Blog

This is a rather bold step for the venerable institution, which will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 in 2011. I mean, it wasn’t until 2009 that they invited bloggers to the media center (giving some of us the recognition and confirmation that what we do is still journalism, even if it’s niche journalism or citizen journalism).

Fans are asked to post any questions, comments, or ideas for Belskus (along with their name and hometown) at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway blog.

While Belskus probably won’t do the customized Old Spice Guy YouTube videos, which included a pretty damn awesome marriage proposal — although if he did, I would become a lifelong fan of Jeff Belskus — I can see him doing shout outs to fans who took the time to ask a question. This kind of personalization can only further cement the relationship between fan and sport. Imagine how much more you would love your favorite team if they gave you special recognition, even once, during a game, match, or race.

Imagine hearing on a TV broadcast, “The Indianapolis Colts would like to personally thank Casey Mullins for the great comments and tweets during the game against the Giants last week. We appreciate your support.” How would you feel, especially if your name was Casey Mullins, if your favorite or even semi-favorite team did that for you? Wouldn’t you want to support the team even more?

Whether that’s the intention of Belskus and the IMS, that could be the side benefit: increased fan loyalty, increased participation in this growing communication channel, all for the price of taking 30 – 60 minutes to shoot 10 – 20 one-off videos with a Flip cam (or knowing the IMS and their technology, a kick-ass digital video camera that any self-respecting video production company would give their right arm to have).

So I’ll be interested to see what the IMS comes up with over the next few months with this experiment. I hope they can give it them time and energy a project like this deserves. The investment is minimal, since they already have the staff and expertise to do it, and the ROI should be huge.

7 Ways to Use Blogging to Promote Events

We’ve often used blogging to promote special events for ourselves and our clients. I’m even a blogger for VisitIndiana, the website and blog for Indiana Tourism, our state government’s tourism department.

    1. Pre-event promotion: This is the one thing most people think of. But don’t limit yourself to a single blog post about the event coming up. Tie every blog post into your event. Blog about topics that tie into the event. For example, if you sell tradeshow displays, talk about the upcoming social media and tradeshow marketing panel discussion you’re going to host on June 9 at the Hilton Garden Inn. (By the way, I’m speaking at a panel discussion on social media and tradeshow marketing on June 9 for Skyline Exhibits – Indianapolis).

  1. Live blogging: This can be challenging, but it can also be fun, because it draws people into the energy of the event, especially if they’re not able to attend with you. I have live blogged at two sporting events. One was the 2009 Indianapolis 500. I had also spent several days in May on the track, blogging about different things I saw, which helped build up my readership for the big day. I also live-blogged from an Indiana Fever game, which I will never do again. As I was writing about a play, something cool would happen, and I would miss it. Now I just tweet the highlights and enjoy the game. The easiest way to do live blogging is to use the Email to Post feature on WordPress or Blogger, or set up a blog at Posterous.com. I especially like Posterous, because I can attach photos and they’ll automatically be placed into each post.
  2. Post-event wrap-up: You want to remind people of the good time they had, or tell them about the good time they missed so they’ll be sure to come back next year. Use this time to talk about what worked well, what could have been better, funny stories, traditions you might start, and photos of the great time people had. Ask attendees for suggestions about what they would like to see changed or kept the same.
  3. Photo blogging: Set up some slideshows on Flickr or Picasa, and paste the embed code into a blog post. You can show photos you’ve already taken, or embed the code early, and then add photos as you take them, which will expand the slideshow. This is especially great for live blogging. Just use a photo uploader on your smart phone, get an EyeFi card for your digital camera, or make sure you have a way to quickly download photos from your camera and then upload them to your photo sharing site. You will need to do some tweaking on your account, but you can start sharing the photos right away.
  4. Video blogging: The same techniques and ideas that you can use for photo blogging work for video blogging. I’m not talking about producing pre-written and edited videos. Rather, take some videos and upload them via your smart phone’s uploader, or YouTube. Take some quick interviews of event attendees, show some speakers/music/events/games, and post them as quick as you can. I especially like Posterous.com for photo and video blogging, because you can set up your account to automatically forward all photos and videos to their respective services when you email them to Posterous.
  5. Get other bloggers: Ask other people to blog about your event in all three stages, pre, during, and post. Give them free admission or tickets to come to your event and write about it. You want to find bloggers in that niche or industry, but don’t limit yourself to only finding the most popular ones. The ones who don’t have a lot of readers can still be valuable. For one thing, they’re reaching a group of people that the bigger bloggers might not. For another, any links they make back to your website help your search engine optimization (see #7), which makes it easier for people to find your event for next year.
  6. It’s all for Search Engine Optimization: It doesn’t matter if you got a lot of people to read about your event this year, or if only a few dozen people were following your blog at the time of the event. All this blogging does one additional thing for you: it builds your content out for search engine placement. If you’re going to hold your event next year, all the work you did this year will help you rank higher on the search engines for next year. This is true whether you’re hosting your own event, or whether you’re participating in someone else’s event. For example, if you’re taking photos, videos, and blogging about your participating at an arts festival, you’ll be one of the first names to pop up when people start searching for it again for next year.

Just remember, blogging is for the long haul too, not a just quick burst of publicity. It’s the marathon, not the spring. But it doesn’t hurt to have a fast start to get out in front of your competition either.

Photo credit: MattIndy77 (Flickr)

Bonefish Grill’s Corporate Videos Look Too Corporate

I’ve become enamored lately with the use of videos to promote one’s brand, whether personal or corporate.

Videos can be used for demonstrations, like the hilarious Will It Blend videos, for sharing information and expertise, like the BrandSwag TV videos I helped Kyle Lacy and Colin Clark produce, and corporate videos like the Bonefish Grill.

I like the fact that Bonefish Grill has embraced social media. Since we’re going to eat there tonight, I thought I would check out their social media footprint.

I found them on Foursquare, and learned they have a Twitter account (@bonefish) (hint: you should be following as many people as are following you: A 17:1,500 ratio looks like you don’t care what others have to say). From there, I found their Facebook page, and watched their latest video on making ceviche (above).

Like I said, I’m pleased to see that the restaurant is using social media with such thoroughness. I just have a little bone to pick with them.

Corporate Videos Should Not Look Corporate

Video marketers understand that anyone who is using corporate video should try to make it look a little more natural and less high end. Believe it or not, videos that look less slick and more homemade tend to perform better in marketing tests, number of viewers, and even virality. Even the Will It Blend videos, while the image quality is great, still has a homemade feel to it.

Videos that look professionally done have an air of artificiality about them, while the simple, basic video made with a Flip cam or a Droid or iPhone seem, well, sincere. This one looks like it’s part cooking show, part travel show, part commercial for Meyers Rum.

And that’s my biggest complaint about the Bonefish video: the overt use of Meyers Rum in the video, without ever telling us they’re a sponsor, supplier, or just good buddies of Tim’s. That’s where it really begins to smack of insincerity and artificiality.

Tim Curci and Rum Ambassador Robert Pallone squeeze in between several bottles of Meyers Rum to prepare some ceviche (awesome looking ceviche, mind you). Then at the end of the video, the bar owner brings out some rum runners with a little topper by Robert of, you guessed it, Meyers Rum.

Now, I understand that Bonefish sells Meyers, and that they (hopefully) asked Meyers to underwrite this little video in exchange for some placement (if they didn’t, they’re missing out on a great opportunity). However, regardless of the arrangement, it looks less natural and more forced when Meyers gets prominent placement without any explanation of why.

Don’t worry if they paid for the placement. You can tell us. No one is going to hold it against you. But it looks like you’re trying to hide it when you don’t mention why Tim and Robert are trying to avoid knocking over the display of Meyers bottles with their elbows.

If I had to grade their effort on this video, I would give it a C, but they get a whole bonus letter grade for being on social media so thoroughly. The only restaurant I know that has embraced it more is Scotty’s Brewhouse (@brewhouse) (Scotty, I’d love to see a variation of Bang Bang Shrimp on the menu.)

So, Bonefish Grill, you get a B for the video, because you’re firing on all the other social media cylinders.

And even though I wasn’t a fan of the video, I’m going to try my first-ever ceviche tonight. Assuming I don’t stuff myself on Bang Bang Shrimp first.

(Update: They didn’t have the ceviche tonight, so I had to resign myself to the Bang-Bang Shrimp and the fish tacos. Still a great meal. My prejudice against their videos does not cross over to their food.)

My Talk at Blog Indiana Bloomington, January 2010

I had a chance to speak at Blog Indiana’s first regional event in Bloomington, Indiana, at the Sproutbox office. (Sproutbox is a venture capital firm that works directly with startups to help them launch. And they’ve got a killer office, complete with liquor cabinet and three in-wall beer taps from the Upland Brewing Company.)

Shawn Plew and Noah Wesley from Blog Indiana were kind enough to ask me to speak, so I talked about promoting a blog with social media. I discussed some of the tools I use to help our clients, as well as my own personal blog.

Special thanks again to Sproutbox for hosting us, and to Scotty’s Brewhouse for providing us with some great food.