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Q: For my research grant I’m trying to budget for an interactive public information DVD and website that will broadly contain the same information.

The video products would be distributed to parents of 13 year old children to teach them communication skills generally and, more specifically, to teach them ways to talk with their kids about alcohol and other drugs.

I would like to get a bid on this project.

Professor of Communication Arts

A: Because your chosen topic, an interactive public information DVD and website for parents of child drug users, has such a wealth of information that might be included in it, the secret of success in lies in the planning, in knowing exactly how much information to include and where to stop.

If this is not done correctly then, as you’re probably aware, the finished video result will be:

> Information overload for parents, to the detriment of the whole project

> An unnecessary high cost of production

I didn’t include damning with faint praise, but that happens too.

Here are some ball park guidelines to help navigate through the minefield of public awareness video production.

Closely define your objectives, goals and target audience

This might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many top heavy video productions still get made, particularly by academic institutions and public authorities.

You also need to decide what goes in the DVD and what goes in the supporting website.

Here’s how I’d suggest starting:

> Make a big bullet point list of everything that might go into the DVD or website

> With each piece of information or bullet point, ask :

What real help does this deliver for beleaguered parents with drug taking or suspected drug-taking or boozing children?

If a point doesn’t deliver then put it in the “Maybe Bin” for now (we’ll come back to this later)

> With each piece of information that passes the above Delivery Test, then ask:

Is this item of info something that all parents need to know, or just some parents?

If the info is important for all parents, then put it in the DVD, otherwise put it in the website.

Doing the above will allow you to:

> Really know what you want to say and to whom.

> Sort which info is necessary for your target audience, and which is “maybe” information

> Sort which info goes where, ie, in DVD or only in the website

Producing the Interactive DVD

If you’ve successfully carried out the above, then you’ve probably narrowed down your video production to a 3 day shoot, packed full of interviews with parents and children, with maybe a sympathetic presenter person for the opener, segment links and conclusions.

Remember you’ll need permission from parents of children appearing on the video.

For each unit of information, you might try an interview format like:

> Child says

> Parent comments

> Expert advises

In this way, each unit of information is presented in all its relevant contexts, in its totality, and isn’t biased towards any specific group involved in the problem.

It could also run as:

> Group of child interview clips say

> Group of parents comment

> Experts advise

Generally, groups of people give more credibility and create more interest, but it calls for a higher standard of editing so you need to budget extra for this. Get a great editor. Don’t go cheap.

Funky soundbites work very well, but long droning ones have the reverse effect.

Having determined a basic format, you then need to divide your topics up into modules, or topics to go in the interactive DVD.

I mentioned earlier about sticking to a 3 day video shoot.

It’s easy to say you need more than 3 days to film all the material you want.

But this will significantly add to your production costs, and increase the likelihood of BS creeping into the production.

Always bear in mind that too many days shoot often means awarding the production contract to a second rate video company, one who are cheap enough to produce to-budget the massive amount of information you mistakenly think you need to acquire.

3 days for a video shoot is a good discipline.

It will force you to work with a limited set of resources, and force you to make cutting edge decisions about what to include and what not to include.

Common sense says to organise the route march of the video shoot in a constructive way so you always have the camera rolling, and always have people waiting for their turn for interview.

The converse, travelling everywhere to interview one person, is wasteful of camera time, and costly.

Organise everyone to come to the camera wherever possible.

Editing and producing the footage into a series of interactive DVD modules shouldn’t be a problem for a video production company who can already demonstrate these skills.

Anyone who can develop all the interactive elements in a single day is kidding you. It can take 2 or 3 days to build and test an interactive DVD, and also have great design and graphics (which are important as they’re what the public sees first – first impression)

Here’s pricing information on Public Information video

Developing the Website

In many ways the structure of the website should borrow from the structure of the interactive DVD.

If you can’t do this, then there’s possibly an error in the earlier thinking on the4 structure of the video content.

Obviously you also have to include About Us, Contact and all the usual accoutrements of a website.

The key to a successful website works like this:

> Dead easy navigation, with everything being obvious to the untrained eye in seconds flat.

> Developing a good stylish look. A website without style is website that lacks credibility, and parents will give it less weight. Having said that, “style” doesn’t mean producing a “wigger clone-alike” street production either. Clean, polished and with “a good look” is fine.

> Dead easy updating of web pages by non-tech users, on demand. You need to be empowered to develop your site yourself, otherwise it’ll wither and die.

With a great website you hardly know you’re using it. It just has everything you want whenever it’s needed.

What about the Maybes?

The Maybes, as we recall, is all the information you might want to say, that isn’t directly in the front line of helping parents deal with their kids.

I also know from experience of dealing with educational and public authorities that there are always complex protocols involved, where you “must say this” or “you mustn’t say that” or “you must include that person or luminary” or you must include “that department”

This is fine.

To cater for this, we invent an area of the website called Info, or maybe Background Info or some similar relevant or catchy title.

In the Info section you can happily deposit all the Maybe Information.

Anyone who needs to see it can find it.You could also put a blog or a web forum there.

You just need to make sure it’s not blocking the way to the key information.

A Site Search facility ensures people can always find the info they need so include one.

Likewise with the DVD:

You might find you’re obliged to interview experts whose goodwill you depend on, but whose content might not be perfectly relevant to solving the problems you want to solve.

With these Video Maybes, include an Additional Information module on the DVD, and use it as a dumping ground for these Maybe Interviews.

Please note there’s no cynicism intended in suggesting these solutions to Maybe information. It’s simply good practice to help save money and increase effectiveness.

The Ideal Solution

With any video and communications production, it’s always good to ask What does good look like?

In this case, good looks like producing a interactive public information DVD and website that will have a major impact on the nation’s drug problems by helping parents and children solve their issues in a “wise” context.

Be ambitious. Be wise. Be tough.

But above all, be smart.

Stick to what matters and sideline anything that doesn’t matter, so that when parents and children view your video production they’ll quickly recognise themselves and their problems, and maybe, just maybe, they’ll see something of their solution.


> Be ruthless in evaluating suggested content

> Try to keep to a 3 day shoot

> Find a home for Maybe info

With these three practical pointers, your interactive public information DVD and website for parents of drug users will be more directly impactful, and ultimately more useful.

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